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50 Best Books for Teens

Updated: Mar. 14, 2024

Push your teen beyond required reading with young adult books that stand the test of time

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Top books for teen readers

Whether your teenage years were harrowing or magical, they’re an unforgettable season of life. Remembering that is what makes books for teens so addictive for all ages, even adults. Much like the best children’s books ever written, these teen-centered stories offer hope for the future and nostalgia for young love and life.

Our list of the best young adult (YA) books ever includes selections from impactful historical fiction, romance novels, fantasy books— really, from the go-to book recommendations from our readers to best books of all time. Many are best sellers and award winners, some have had a cultural impact, and others have shaped the YA category into what it is today.

We’ve also added timeless classics and contemporary page-turners from the Top 100 YA Books list compiled by Goodreads members, plus a handful of novels from 2020 and 2021 that have received high praise (at least four out of five stars on Goodreads) from readers and critics alike. So whether you’re a fan of young adult memoirs, thrilling beach reads, paranormal fiction, or some other genre, pull up a chair. There are some stellar books for teens here for you.

Join the free Reader’s Digest Book Club for great reads, monthly discussions, author Q&As and a community of book lovers.

Perks Of Being A Wallflower VIA MERCHANT

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)

This coming-of-age story became a cult classic because of its honest look at the lives of everyday teenagers. Through the eyes of 15-year-old Charlie, the novel details the daily trials and tribulations that many teenagers face, but it also tackles hefty and controversial topics, like drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and suicide. It also focuses on the roles that friendship, family, and love play in helping us through difficult times. Whether you’re buying a new paperback or reading for free online, this belongs on your list.

Looking for your next great book? Read four of today’s bestselling novels in the time it takes to read one with Reader’s Digest Select Editions. And be sure to follow the Select Editions page on Facebook!

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt via amazon.com

2. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (1996)

Frank McCourt’s New York Times best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir tells the story of his life growing up as an impoverished and deprived child in Ireland and how he overcame those circumstances. While the story is compelling, what saves McCourt through a series of tragic events are his relationships with his mother and father, siblings, neighbors, and friends. It’s one of those classic rags-to-riches books for teens that not only inspires young readers to make the most of what they have, but also encourages them to persevere and overcome any odds they may face.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz VIA MERCHANT

3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (2012)

This contemporary gay romance is so much more than a young adult novel. Defying the traditional structure of a plot, the story unfolds lyrically and emotionally. Rumor has it, Alire Saenz’s critically acclaimed novel will also be made into a movie. The book, which includes themes of friendship and love, unpacks the complex relationship between two boys—one of whom has not come to fully accept his own identity or the dynamics of his family. It’s a page-turner from an LGBTQ author who shows teens what it means to embrace who you are and who you can become. Readers will be happy to know the sequel was just released.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates VIA MERCHANT

4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)

This nonfiction book is an in-depth examination of the history and current state of race relations in America. Written as a series of letters to the author’s 15-year-old son, Between the World and Me introduces readers to the complex societal and economic factors that affect Black citizens in contemporary America. The book became an instant bestseller; renowned author Toni Morrison deemed it “required reading” for teens and adults alike.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green VIA MERCHANT

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012)

Protagonist Hazel Lancaster believes her life is over. Cancer has hijacked her world. But then she meets Augustus Waters, and the way he makes her laugh—the way he makes her feel seen—makes her want to live again. John Green’s heartbreaking work of contemporary fiction made waves for its bold, clear-eyed look at modern teenage life. The Fault in Our Stars will captivate young adults with themes of life and death, true love, and friendship that surpasses circumstances. Green has penned several must-read books for teens, but this one is especially worth reading if you love sad books.

The Giver series by Lois Lowry via amazon.com

6. The Giver series by Lois Lowry (1993)

Considered one of the 100 books you should read before you die, Lois Lowry’s dystopian novel, The Giver, will stick with you forever. Haunting, frightening, and yet remarkably even-keeled, this story by a female author unfolds through the eyes of 12-year-old Jonas. He and his family live in a society that is more chilling than it seems. On the surface, everyone is pleasant. But behind the curtain, leaders would resort to murder to keep certain lives free of pain and suffering. With themes of identity, love, and family, this is one one of the can’t-miss books for teens.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah VIA MERCHANT

7. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (2007)

This gripping memoir tells the true story of Ishmael Beah, who at the age of 12 became a boy soldier for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during a civil war in Sierra Leone. Left with no options, he’s taken in by the rebel army, which brainwashes him and forces him to take drugs and watch violent action movies. By 13, he’s become the very thing he was running from: a violent, unrelenting killer. At the age of 16, UNICEF intervenes, removing Beah from the army and giving him hope for a new life. Teen readers will certainly be moved by Beah’s tale of survival and his ability to overcome a tragic childhood to become an ambassador for peace. Keep reading for more books by Black authors.

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume via amazon.com

8. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (1981)

Arguably considered one of Judy Blume’s best books for teens, Tiger Eyes tells the story of Davey, a 15-year-old girl whose father was murdered in a violent crime. Afterward, Davey and her brother temporarily relocate to New Mexico to stay with relatives, where she meets new friends and learns to let go of her pain and live again. Although this piece of literary fiction was written more than 30 years ago, the themes of grief, loss, and mental health are as current as ever. This book will appeal to a wide swath of adolescent readers.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger via amazon.com

9. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)

Chances are, this is one of the books you read in high school, but it’s worth a second look. The Catcher in the Rye, one of the most historically banned books, could be considered, by most accounts, the original “teen angst” novel. Protagonist Holden Caulfield is a 16-year-old disaffected and alienated young teen who flunks out of his latest boarding school for not “applying himself.” Even though it’s near the start of his holiday vacation, he’s not expected home for a few days, so he decides to take a train to New York City and stay in a hotel for a few days, where Holden finds himself grappling with a succession of adult-themed situations.

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh VIA MERCHANT

10. Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh (2020)

A National Book Award finalist, Candice Iloh’s novel Every Body Looking focuses on the story of Ada, who finds independence for the first time when she leaves home for her freshman year at a historically Black college. This work of contemporary fiction tackles tough subjects, such as sexuality, addiction, and race—all while focusing on Ada’s personal journey toward discovering her truths.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone VIA MERCHANT

11. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (2017)

Nic Stone tackles the heavy issues of racism, discrimination, and inequality in her book Dear Martin. Widely considered a “must-read” in the canon of social justice literature, the novel tells the story of Ivy-league-bound Justyce McAllister, a young black teen who becomes a victim of racial profiling following a crime. In the aftermath, he looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers.

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman VIA MERCHANT

12. Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman (2000)

This contemporary fiction novel tells the story of Shawn McDaniel, a 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. He’s highly intelligent yet unable to move his muscles, feed himself, or communicate. Through his first-person narrative, he remains positive about his life, even when people treat him like he’s brain-damaged. This short book forces young readers to think about the assumptions they make about people with disabilities and also addresses euthanasia and quality of life as pertinent social issues.

This is My America by Kim Johnson VIA MERCHANT

13. This is My America by Kim Johnson (2020)

Kim Johnson’s debut contemporary fiction novel, This is My America, tells the story of Tracy Beaumont, a 17-year-old Black girl trying to save her father, who is on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. In the midst of her desperate attempts to save him, her track star brother is accused of killing a white girl. This powerful and provocative novel confronts issues of race and injustice, which will appeal to socially conscious readers of any age.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien via amazon.com

14. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)

“Young adult” might not have been a category when Tolkein wrote his tale, but no list of the best young adult books of all time should leave Bilbo behind. Tolkien’s The Hobbit immerses readers into the world of Middle-earth, a magical realm of hobbits, elves, dwarves, and more. In this classic book, Bilbo Baggins is summoned on a great adventure that will change his life forever. With themes of friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, and more, The Hobbit is an adventure waiting to happen for those willing to embark on the dangerous business of stepping into the story.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles via amazon.com

15. A Separate Peace by John Knowles (1959)

John Knowles’ A Separate Peace has been beloved by both young readers and adults since it was first published. This timeless coming-of-age classic may make frequent appearances on AP reading lists, but its prose will appeal to readers of all ages. Set during World War II, it tells the story of Gene Forrester and his experiences as he transitions to adulthood after spending his adolescence at an elite prep school in New Hampshire. A gripping and poignant read, it tackles such weighty themes as identity, patriotism, denial, and the effects of war.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas via amazon.com

16. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)

The recipient of numerous literary honors for young adult fiction and a New York Times bestseller since it debuted, Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. It focuses on the dichotomy between 16-year-old Starr Carter’s poor neighborhood and the wealthy suburban prep school she attends. After reading this social justice novel, don’t miss the book-to-movie adaptation.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi VIA MERCHANT

17. American Street by Ibi Zoboi (2017)

In her debut novel, American Street, Haitian American author Ibi Zoboi tells the story of Fabiola Toussaint, who journeys to American from Haiti with her mother in hopes of finding the American dream. When her mother is detained upon arrival, Fabiola winds up living with relatives on the corner of American Street and Joy Road in Detroit, where she must navigate the complexities of living in a brand-new world while holding on to her Haitian values and roots. The winner of numerous awards and a National Board Award finalist, the contemporary fiction novel—truly one of the best books for teens—provides an honest, unfiltered glimpse into what it’s like to be an immigrant living in the United States.

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18. Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)

Fans of fantasy fiction books for teens will no doubt enjoy Ransom Riggs’s debut novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Told through both prose and a series of photographs, the novel tells the story of Jacob Magellan Portman, who is on a quest to learn more about the stories his grandfather told him about surviving as a Jew during World War II.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds via amazon.com

19. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (2017)

This fast-paced, gripping thriller by Jason Reynolds grapples with the grave aftereffects of gun violence. A winner of numerous literary awards for YA fiction, the novel tells the story of a 15-year-old boy named Will who is seeking revenge for the murder of his brother. The novel’s simple setting—the entire story takes place on an elevator—is juxtaposed with the intricate character interactions that occur as Will journeys from floor to floor.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen via barnsandnoble.com

20. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice by now—arguably one of the greatest romances in literature—why not start a mini book club with your teen? This classic young adult novel is just as enjoyable for adults, and you’ll be able to discuss themes of romance and personal identity through a historical lens. This feminist book provides the perfect opportunity to talk about how dating and marriage have changed over the years.

Divergent series by Veronica Roth via amazon.com

21. Divergent series by Veronica Roth (2011)

One of the many hit movies that were books first, Veronica Roth’s Divergent is another classic dystopian series. In this take on a society gone wrong, the future world is divided into five factions: Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intellectuals), Abnegation (the selfless), and Candor (those who are honest above all else). In the first book of the series, heroine Tris Prior realizes that she does not fit in a single category—she is, as the title suggests, divergent. Thus begins a quest to hide her status while saving the crumbling world around her. Themes include love, loyalty, and friendship.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank via amazon.com

22. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)

This is one of the few nonfiction books for kids on this list of best books for teens, but we would be remiss to pass over Anne Frank’s diary. Both heartwarming and chilling, it provides a glimpse into history like few texts can. The diary details life hidden in the “Secret Annex,” where Anne’s family and friends stay tucked away, hoping the war would end (and not in Nazi Germany’s favor). This heartrending classic will spark discussions of love, friendship, and coming of age.

Holes by Louis Sachar via amazon.com

23. Holes by Louis Sachar (1998)

Fans of adventure will be intrigued by the young adult novel Holes by Louis Sachar. The beloved book, which won both a National Book Award and a Newbery Medal, tells the story of Stanley Yelnats, a teenage boy who has been sent to a juvenile detention center called Camp Green Lake for a crime that he didn’t commit. When he arrives, he discovers his fellow inmates digging holes for the warden, each five feet wide and five feet deep, all day long, leading Stanley to believe the Warden is searching for something mysterious.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak via amazon.com

24. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)

Despite what the title might lead you to believe, this award-winning novel by Markus Zusak isn’t a detective novel. Rather, it’s the fictitious tale of a young girl named Liesel who is living in Nazi-occupied Germany during the Holocaust. In order to read, she had to steal books, even as they are being marked for burning by Nazi bonfires. The novel features a unique point of view; it is narrated by Death itself, who shares Liesel’s story of struggle and survival. Readers of all ages will appreciate this genre-bending Holocaust book for its themes of love, hope, and the power that words have to hurt—or to heal.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding VIA MERCHANT

25. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)

Readers who return to this classic high school English class book as adults find it’s much more appealing than they thought the first time around. First published in 1954, the novel tells the story of a group of British boys who become stranded on a deserted island following a plane crash. On their own, with no adults to guide them, they’re left to fend for themselves. As disasters unfurl and jealousy rages, the boys quickly discover a life without grown-ups is not as freeing or as fun as they believed it would be.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins via amazon.com

26. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (2008)

If you have a teen reader in your house, chances are you’ve heard of The Hunger Games, one of the best book series for teens. This dystopian trilogy by Suzanne Collins includes The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. The books are set in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem, where children are selected annually to participate in a televised, fight-to-the-death battle called—you guessed it—the Hunger Games. The rebellion inspired by the series’ strong female character—sharp and spirited hero Katniss Everdeen—will captivate readers of all ages.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta via amazon.com

27. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2006)

Told in dual storylines, this contemporary Australian novel takes readers to a boarding school, where Taylor Markham leads a territory “war” between boarders, townies, and local cadets. Amid the war games comes a story about a lonely girl searching for a missing woman and finding herself. As the plot unfolds, so too does the tragic tale of a group of teens whose lives are more entwined with Taylor’s than she (or the reader) can imagine. Centered on themes of love, family, friendship, and coming to grips with the past, Marchetta’s lyrical, emotional, Printz Award-winning novel is one you’ll want to read time and again.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson VIA MERCHANT

28. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)

This contemporary young adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson tackles the weighty subject of sexual assault. The story is told through the eyes of high school freshman, Melinda Sordino, who is raped at a party by an older classmate. She calls 911 but is afraid to tell the police what happened, so she runs off and instead tells no one. As a result of the trauma, she falls into a deep depression and stops talking almost completely. The novel received awards and critical acclaim for its realistic account of the aftermath of rape. Targeted for readers age 14 and up, Speak has been lauded for opening a dialogue about sexual harassment and assault among both teens and adults. Good news for anyone who prefers to listen to books: This is one of the best free audiobooks for kids.

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare via amazon.com

29. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (2007)

Part paranormal fiction, part urban fantasy, Cassandra Clare’s series roared onto the young adult scene in the early 2000s, landing on the New York Times bestseller list and quickly being translated for readers around the world. The story follows Clary (yes, remarkably similar to the author’s last name), a young New Yorker who witnesses a murder while visiting a nightclub. Despite some reported gaps in the plot, the alternate version of modern New York took hold, and teens dove right into the entertaining themes of friendship and loyalty. It’s a good book for teens who don’t need to think too hard about their fiction if there’s an exciting adventure and a swoon-worthy romance.

The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer VIA MERCHANT

30. The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer (2012)

Smash together traditional fairy tales with a splash of science fiction and a pinch of fantasy, and what do you get? Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series of sci-fi books. In Cinder, the first book of the series, teenager Cinder Lihn is a cyborg mechanic living in New Beijing. But when she becomes entangled with a prince named Kai, she suddenly realizes the weight of forbidden attraction and how it fits into a massive intergalactic dispute. Readers will enjoy themes of modern romance, loyalty between friend and country, and what it means to betray.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London via barnesandnoble.com

31. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

Short but powerful, this classic novel is widely considered Jack London’s masterpiece. Its central character is a dog named Buck, who is stolen from his home by a gardener to pay gambling debts. Buck is sold to a stranger who cages, beats, and starves him and then sells him again to be trained as a sled dog in Canada. As the book progresses, Bucks’ trials in the wilderness force him to shed his posture as a family pet and instead rely on his animal instincts to survive.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros via amazon.com

32. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1983)

This work of fiction by Mexican American author Sandra Cisneros might be a common addition to school reading lists but is enjoyed by readers of all ages. Widely considered a modern classic, it follows a year in the life of 12-year-old Esperanza Cordero, a Latina girl in a low-income Chicago neighborhood. Partially based on Cisneros’s own life, this coming-of-age story addresses themes of gender, sexuality, race, and cross-cultural identity. Check out this list for more books by Latinx authors.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton VIA MERCHANT

33. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)

If you somehow escaped school without reading The Outsiders, you’ll want to pick up a copy now. This novel by S.E. Hinton focuses on two weeks in the life of 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis, a member of the working-class Greasers, and his rivals, the upper-crust Socials. Beloved by readers of all generations, The Outsiders is widely considered a groundbreaking piece of literature that paved the way for the entire YA genre—and spawned one of literature’s most famous lines of dialogue: “Stay gold, Ponyboy.”

Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali VIA MERCHANT

34. Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali (2020)

Looking for a contemporary love story that also tackles issues of identity and loyalty in this multicultural world? You’ll find it in Love from A to Z. In this book, which is split between two characters’ perspectives, you’ll follow the unfolding relationships of two Muslim teens who meet on vacation. The resulting exploration of culture, prejudice, loss, and hope will resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan via amazon.com

35. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (2018)

Protagonist Leigh Chen Sanders is half Asian, half white. After her mother kills herself, Leigh decided to travel to Taiwan to uncover her family history, meet her grandparents, and try to make sense of her life and the lives of those around her. Emily X.R. Pan’s poignant, often poetic storytelling fearlessly dives into the heaviness of grief while playing with the whimsy of magical realism in this teen novel. As author John Green says, when it comes to young adult books, “This is a very special book.”

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee via amazon.com

36. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

Told through the eyes of 6-year-old Scout Finch, Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, explores racial tensions in a small town in Alabama. The book, which is widely taught in schools, is also one of the most frequently banned books because of its use of racial slurs, sexually violent content, and its harsh look at racial injustice. Despite the controversy, it is widely regarded as one of the best pieces of literature ever published.

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman via amazon.com

37. His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman (1995)

This trio of coming-of-age fantasy novels by Philip Pullman begins with The Golden Compass, which some critics consider to be one of the finest pieces of young adult literature ever published. Adults will find this award-winning trilogy spellbinding as they follow the adventures of Lyra and Will, two children who travel through vibrant parallel universes that are at once similar to and quite different from our own. Even though it’s targeted at young adults, the series’ complex themes—which relate to morality, identity, and fate versus free will—will entice readers of every age.

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38. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

Here’s one of the best mother-daughter books. Though Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has been translated to film several times, there’s nothing quite like getting lost in its yellowing paper pages. Follow the divergent adventures of the March sisters in coming-of-age tales with themes of female independence, familial duty, and personal identity.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls via amazon.com

39. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)

While not everyone agrees that Where the Red Fern Grows tells an excellent, swashbuckling story, there’s no denying that it’s a classic in the world of middle-grade and young adult literature. The story spans the two categories and hit shelves before such a distinction was so important to bookstores. It’s a beloved classic that captures the powerful bond between man and man’s best friend. This edition also includes a special note to readers from Newbery Medal winner and Printz Honor winner Clare Vanderpool.

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40. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (2020)

Elizabeth Acevedo’s novel Clap When You Land is told in beautiful, heartrending verse—a draw for fans of poetry books. It follows the thoughts, feelings, and wanderings of Yahaira Rios after an unexpected call to the principal’s office turns out to be news that her beloved father has died in a plane crash. Somewhere else, another girl, Camino Rios, is learning the same thing. Themes of grief and familial secrets unfurl as the two girls lose their father and find each other instead. If you’re looking for enthralling books for teenage girls, look no further.

Watership Down by Richard Adams via amazon.com

41. Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)

Richard Adams’s Watership Down has been one of the best-selling books for teens for decades. This classic work of fiction follows the tale of several rabbits as they try to escape destruction while dreaming of a better life. Yes, the main characters are animals. And yes, this is a young adult book. Expect themes of survival, bravery, and hope despite the odds.

Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene via amazon.com

42. Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene (1930)

This collection of classic mystery novels was actually written by various authors under the pen name of Carolyn Keene. Over the past few decades, Nancy has evolved with the times—to the point where she’s now using a cell phone to investigate her never-ending mysteries. More than 80 million readers have been intrigued by the teenage sleuth as she solves case after case, starting with the original novel in the 163-book series, The Secret of the Old Clock. Today, the imperturbable Nancy is attracting a whole new generation of fans, thanks to a television show launched in 2019.

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley via amazon.com

43. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (2021)

Angeline Boulley’s debut thriller, Firekeeper’s Daughter, is already set to be a Netflix series. Before you curl up on the couch and fall in love with heroine Daunis Fontaine onscreen, pick up a copy of the novel. In this book about identity and addiction, Daunis wrestles with who she is as a biracial, unenrolled tribal member living outside the Ojibwe reservation. After witnessing a murder, she goes undercover to learn the truth about what happened—and about the community just outside her door. This is an #ownvoices story; the author herself is Native American.

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44. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (2006)

If you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen’s young adult fiction, we know what you’re thinking: How did you pick just one? The author has won the Margaret A. Edwards and Romantic Times Career Achievement Awards for her contributions to romantic teen literature. Just Listen epitomizes the genre with the story of model Annabel and artsy, brooding Owen. With classic coming-of-age themes, this contemporary romance is both easy reading and conversation-sparking. (Trigger warnings, particularly concerning high school books: sexual assault and disordered eating.)

Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray via amazon.com

45. Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray (2003)

What do you get when a YA author stirs together historical fiction, dark realism, and a pinch of the paranormal? A Great and Terrible Beauty, the first installment in Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series, that’s what. This story of strong female characters follows 16-year-old Gemma to boarding school, where she soon realizes there’s more to the world than meets the eye. The book takes dark turns at times, so beware of themes of suicide and gothic literature.

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46. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2004)

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is part graphic novel, part memoir. It illustrates the clash between standard daily life and turbulent war during the Islamic Revolution in the 1970s. Author Terence Ward wrote of it: “Persepolis opens a rare door to an understanding of events that still haunt America while shining a bright light on the personal humanity and humor so much alive in Iranian families today.” Teens will lose themselves in these illustrated pages, which cover classic themes like love and loss while also delving into the nuances of cultural identity.

The Inheritance Cycle series by Christopher Paolini VIA MERCHANT

47. The Inheritance Cycle series by Christopher Paolini (2003)

If initially, you think Eragon, Christopher Paolini’s first installment of The Inheritance Cycle (one of the best teen series!), is more middle grade than young adult, you wouldn’t be completely wrong. Though the series begins at a slightly earlier level of reading, the content is decidedly young adult. Hence, it’s been wedged in the middle by several reviewers and critics. When first released, it was one of the most popular books for teen boys because of its page-turning adventures and blend of myth and magic. So what makes this among the best teen books of all time? Eragon manages to capture the imaginations of students and adults everywhere with its quintessential fantasy plot and dystopian undertones. Themes include friendship, true home, and good versus evil.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite VIA MERCHANT

48. One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite (2021)

For every teen who has wondered if their individual life matters, and for every teen who has lost someone they love, here is a novel that unflinchingly asks and answers life’s biggest questions. When Kezi Smith is murdered after a social justice event, her family is left grieving the person they lost and bewildered by the perfect, pristine Kezi immortalized by the world. This contemporary work of fiction will surprise you with its twists and reel you in with its honest exploration of fact versus fiction. Expect passages that explore themes of prejudice and social justice. For more great reads, browse this list of the best true crime books.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli VIA MERCHANT

49. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015)

Dear Blue, writes 16-year-old Simon Spier to the boy he’s been messaging in secret. Because here’s the thing: Simon is totally gay and totally not out. One of the most beloved LGBTQ+ books for teens, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda tackles the reality of coming of age—and coming out—with wit and humor. Half the fun is guessing which character is the mysterious Blue; the other half is watching Simon embrace his true self. With themes of family, friendship, sexuality, and identity, the book will appeal to teens trying to figure out who they are. Once done, they can watch the love story unfold in the movie and TV adaptations.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang via amazon.com

50. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (2007)

Winner of the 2007 Printz Award, Gene Luen Yang’s modern fable got rave reviews from critics and readers. The graphic novel tells three separate stories with similarities that are revealed as the book goes on. A creative force and imaginative depiction of what it’s like to be the target of prejudiced thinking, this is a must-read for teen shelves.